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Feds go 0-for-2 in suits against Yakima Valley farm

Judge tosses retaliation suit

SPOKANE - The EEOC struck out again in federal district court last Friday, when retaliation claims against Cowiche-based Evans Fruit were rejected.

Just two weeks earlier, a district court jury in Yakima rejected 14 sexual harassment claims against Evans Fruit for alleged actions at its Sunnyside ranch.

The claims brought last Friday alleged company employees retaliated against the women who filed the harassment charges with the EEOC.

"Dismissal of the retaliation case was not unexpected by Evans Fruit," says Brendan Monahan, the company's attorney. "The judge concluded that the case was completely unsupported by admissible evidence and he decided to dismiss it without even allowing a jury to hear it. His legal conclusion was that 'no reasonable person' could conclude that Evans Fruit had engaged in retaliation against the plaintiffs."

Monahan added that rejection of the two EEOC cases against Evans Fruit - which he says were based on a "combination of rumor, hearsay and demonstrable embellishments" - should prompt the federal agency to re-evaluate its approach in the future.

"We hope these types of rebukes will serve as a reality check for the EEOC, and that it will pursue future claims against Washington farmers with a more reasonable and conciliatory approach," he said. "The EEOC invested an astonishing amount of political, human and financial capital into these cases and it ended up with exactly nothing in return."

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